A team led by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna and her longtime collaborator Jill Banfield has developed a clever tool to edit the genomes of bacteria-infecting viruses called bacteriophages using a rare form of CRISPR. The ability to easily engineer custom-designed phages—which has long eluded the research community—could help researchers control microbiomes without antibiotics or harsh chemicals, and treat dangerous drug-resistant infections. A paper describing the work was recently published in Nature Microbiology.
CRISPR enzymes are like super scissors: they cut, delete, and add genes to a specific kind of cell, one at a time. But now, UC Berkeley faculty and Biosciences Area researchers have figured out how to add or modify genes within a microbial community of many different species, coining the phrase, “community editing.”
In celebration of the Lab’s 90th anniversary, 16 of our most popular “90 Breakthroughs” faced off in the first ever Berkeley Lab Breakthroughs Bracket Challenge on Twitter. After four weeks of public voting online, the top breakthrough was “Created a Powerful Gene Editing Tool”—otherwise known as CRISPR!
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna winning the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their development of the CRISPR method of genome editing is a momentous achievement, supported by the contributions of numerous individuals and institutions, including the Advanced Light Source (ALS) synchrotron user facility at Berkeley Lab. This feature details how Doudna’s research was enabled by the facility’s early embrace of hard X-ray crystallography technology for atomic-level understanding of molecular structure, as well as her use of the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology’s (BCSB’s) wiggler-based beamline 5.0.2 for macromolecular crystallography. Doudna has published some 35 papers using ALS crystallography beamlines, including two cited by the Nobel Committee in its CRISPR-Cas9 scientific background document.
Biochemist Jennifer Doudna, a professor at UC Berkeley and faculty scientist in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division, has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the development of a method for genome editing.” She shares the Nobel Prize with co-discoverer Emmanuelle Charpentier, who currently serves as the scientific and managing director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin. In 2012, Doudna and Charpentier’s research team detailed the underlying mechanisms of the CRISPR-Cas9 system – a component of the bacterial immune system that defends against invading viruses – and explained how it can be programmed to cut DNA at a target sequence.